New York in the Sixties


New York in the Sixties, Klaus Lehnartz, photography, 1968

I cringed when I first saw this image taken in the summer of 1968. A nun seems to be walking with her head nodded downwards keeping her eyes to the ground. It almost makes me wonder why she feels the need to do this action, but then I take in the scene fully. The two men and woman in back of her seem to be smiling and almost mocking her. The others do not seem to be smiling but watching the scene unfold. If you look to the man with his hands behind his back, I can only infer that he is surveying the scene almost as I am.

I quickly come to a conclusion regarding this picture and a question. Why would each individual watch idly by while a respected nun gets ridiculed by her peers? I believe that this photographer was not only showing this particular image, but also a solid representation of what happens in life. I think that it’s interesting that he included the younger two on the side, which adds a new element to this image that, I believe, regards not speaking up. Treating people unkindly while others look on without intervening is what we, as a population, have been dealing with for a very long time.


4 thoughts on “New York in the Sixties”

  1. I found this picture very moving as well. It clearly depicts how difficult it can be to stay firm in one’s beliefs. The nun’s full robe is starkly contrasted with the bathing suits the other subjects in the picture are wearing. Peer pressure can make it very difficult to stand alone in the crowd which is probably why the nun has her head facing downward and why the bystanders do nothing. Pressure to conform is something still prevalent in today’s society.

  2. Reading this blogger and other commentator’s reaction to the photo, I feel as if both are off in their analysis of the image. The nun does not just have her head “nodded downward” for no apparent reason and no one is making fun of her. The nun is using an old fashioned brownie camera and taking a picture of the people in bathing suits. Those people in bathing suits posing for a picture is what the people behind the nun are looking at. This photo is iconic because it represents a time in history when change was rapidly striking and not all people understood the change while others embraced it. The nun in the photo is not being made fun of for her attire, but the photograph is showing the stark differences in people and beliefs during the 1960s. Although I do agree that throughout time there has always been mistreatment of people and pressure to conform, I do not think that is the message this picture is trying to portray.

  3. It’s really interesting looking at the severe contrast between the nun’s clothing and what everyone else is wearing. I feel like the image clearly illuminates the numerous divides in society along with the judgmental nature of society. It makes me question our state of society today, do we really still judge people for just being themselves? How divided is our society and have we really come that far?

  4. This picture is very odd to me. The context of what is going on is very open to interpretation. Many questions arise, such as why is she pointing her camera at the ground? Why is everyone staring at her? Why is a nun by the beach? Why are those people so close to her? Nuns are not very common in the 21st century, but in the 1960’s, when this was taken, nuns were very common in America. Therefore people wouldn’t have reason to make fun of a nun for simply being present. Therefore those who are smiling or snickering must be amused by something other than her mere existence.

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